Water beads sold by Target have been recalled because they pose the risk of choking and death. The Buffalo Games Chuckle & Roar Ultimate Water Beads Activity Kits, which sold last year for about $15, are connected with one infant death and one serious injury. About 52,000 sets are being recalled.
The problem: If someone swallows a bead, it expands because of saliva and can block an airway or cause an intestinal obstruction, which could lead to death, the announcement by Buffalo Games and the Consumer Product Safety Commission said.
A 10-month-old baby in Wisconsin died in July after swallowing the recalled beads, the announcement said. The company also received a report last November that a 9-month-old baby in Maine suffered a serious injury after swallowing the water beads. That led to an intestinal obstruction and surgery.
A pea-sized water bead can grow to the size of a tennis ball, according to studies involving various brands of water beads.
Parents and caregivers should take the recalled Buffalo Games Chuckle & Roar water beads away from children and put them in an inaccessible place until they return them. Consumers can get a refund by contacting Buffalo Games or returning the water beads to any Target store.
The water beads kit includes “jumbo” water beads and “regular” water beads, along with toy fish, activity cards and other accessories. The product was sold in a purple box with the UPC Number 079346627035 on the back. The items were sold from March to November 2022 only at Target stores and through target.com.
Water beads are often colorful, marble-sized squishy balls that can be fun to run through your fingers. They are often used as sensory toys for children with autism. But they also look like gum balls or other candy.
There have been a number of incidents reported to the CPSC involving different types of water beads in recent years.
CPSC Chair Alex Hoehn-Saric said concern about water beads goes beyond this one product. “In recent months, the commission has heard from numerous parents whose young children have suffered grievous injuries or death as a result of ingesting water beads,” Hoehn-Saric said in a statement. “The water beads, generally purchased for older siblings, can be missed during clean up and swallowed days or even weeks later. The children who survived water bead ingestion suffered hospitalizations and surgeries and live with long-term health impacts.
“The risk, however, is not limited to a single product. All small children who have access to water beads are at risk,” Hoehn-Saric said. “CPSC urges all families, schools, camps, and child-care centers to keep water beads out of any spaces that babies and small children may enter.”
In a statement, CPSC Commissioner Peter Feldman echoed that the CPSC is paying attention to water beads. “While this is the Commission’s first water beads recall, similar products remain available across a variety of retail platforms. In May, the commission received testimony about the unique obstruction hazard this product category may present to children,” he said.
“The commission will be monitoring this class of products and will weigh all available actions it can take to protect consumers,” Feldman said.
Commissioner Rich Trumka was more direct. “Stop using water beads, get them out of your home immediately, and search any areas in which stray water beads may have unintentionally been scattered during play … Check your floorboards, in toy chests, and around the bathtub,” Trumka said in a statement.
Hoehn-Saric added: “The Commission will continue to work to address the dangers associated with water beads, and I anticipate that this will include updating the safety standards that are currently in place. Preventing the harms associated with water bead ingestions must be a priority so that other families do not needlessly suffer.”
Consumers can reach Buffalo Games toll-free at 800-637-0732 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, by email at [email protected], or online at https://chuckleandroar.com/recall or www.chuckleandroar.com.
Consumer Watchdog, U.S. PIRG Education Fund
Teresa directs the Consumer Watchdog office, which looks out for consumers’ health, safety and financial security. Previously, she worked as a journalist covering consumer issues and personal finance for two decades for Ohio’s largest daily newspaper. She received dozens of state and national journalism awards, including Best Columnist in Ohio, a National Headliner Award for coverage of the 2008-09 financial crisis, and a journalism public service award for exposing improper billing practices by Verizon that affected 15 million customers nationwide. Teresa and her husband live in Greater Cleveland and have two sons. She enjoys biking, house projects and music, and serves on her church missions team and stewardship board.